Three new tenure-track faculty members, four new lecturers, and a visiting scholar will be joining the Columbia School of Social Work at the start of the 2015–2016 academic year.

Drs. Carmela Alcántara, Jinyu Liu, and Desmond Patton have joined the full-time faculty as assistant professors.

In addition, CSSW welcomes four new lecturers to its full-time faculty: Drs. Mashura Akilova, Elisabeth Counselman Carpenter, Sónia Pereira, and Amy Werman.

Finally, we welcome back Dr. Dexter Voisin, a Ph.D. alumnus, as a visiting professor.

Short bios of the new faculty members appear below. Welcome, one and all!

New Assistant Professors

Dr. Carmela Alcántara conducts research on racial/ethnic variations in sleep disturbances and their impact on health disparities. Sleep deficiencies (inadequate or mistimed sleep) are a growing public health concern in the United States, with measurable implications for the social, physical, and mental well-being of over 50 million U.S. adults who suffer from these conditions. Sleep deficiencies also exert a significant economic toll, being associated with higher rates of health care utilization, accidents, injuries, and occupational impairment. Importantly, racial and ethnic minorities, such as Hispanics and African Americans, and persons from low socioeconomic backgrounds, are more likely to suffer from sleep deficiency.

Dr. Alcántara has been awarded research grants by the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. She recently received word that she will be awarded a TRANSFORM KL2 Mentored Career Development Award as well as a Diversity and Inclusion Initiative award from Columbia University’s Office of the Provost, the latter for her project “Prognostic Risk of Sleep Deficiency after Acute Coronary Syndrome,” through which she is studying the cardiovascular risks associated with poor sleep, particularly among low-income primary care patients.

Before coming to CSSW, Dr. Alcántara was an associate research scientist at the Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health in the Department of Medicine, Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC), focused on health disparities related to the Latino and African American communities. She was a research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health and a psychology intern at NYU Langone Medical Center/Bellevue Hospital.

Dr. Carmela Alcántara received an M.A. and Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Michigan, Department of Psychology. Her B.A. in psychology and sociology with a concentration in Latino studies was received from Cornell University.


Dr. Jinyu Liu‘s primary area of research is aging and mental health. She has examined the effects of contextual factors on depression in older adults cross-nationally using the Health and Retirement Study data-sets and similar international longitudinal studies. She was selected to participate in the National Institute on Aging’s 2015 summer workshop on gerontology research.

At Columbia, Dr. Liu will collaborate with national and international researchers to develop mental health interventions for older citizens. In addition, she is expanding her research to include an examination of bereavement and mental health in older Chinese people who have suffered the loss of a child.

Dr. Liu taught a course on “Human Differences, Social Relationships, Well-Being, and Change Through the Life Course” while she was a postdoctoral research fellow at the Curtis Center of Social Work Research and Training within the School of Social Work at the University of Michigan,  She encourages her students to apply a multicultural lens to the study of individuals, families, and their interpersonal and group relationships, life span development, and theories of well-being, stress, coping and adaptation.

Dr. Liu earned her MSW and Ph.D. in Social Work from the University of Iowa School of Social Work. Her Ph.D. dissertation, titled “Caregiver strain among Chinese adult children of oldest old parents,” addressed the issue of caregiving for aging populations in China. In addition, she holds a Master’s in sociology from Peking University in Beijing City, China.


Dr. Desmond Patton‘s research focuses on intersection of community violence and the use of social media/social networking. His particular focus is Internet banging—the use of social networking sites by gangs to plan or incite violence in urban areas. He is monitoring this trend and working within communities to curb violence generated by online taunts. He has been quoted in mainstream media—e.g., the Chicago Tribune. Dr. Patton has received a Columbia Office of the Provost research award through its Diversity and Inclusion Initiative.

Dr. Patton’s research is conducted in Chicago, and three years ago he founded the Supporting Aggression Free Environments (S.A.F.E.) for Urban Youth Lab, which undertakes research to strengthen community-based organizations engaged in violence prevention efforts. Currently, these projects are focused on youths of color and their exposure to social media, community violence, resiliency, decision-making and intervention research.

Before coming to Columbia, Dr. Patton was an assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Social Work, with a courtesy appointment in the School of Information as well as an affiliation with its School of Public Health. He has worked as a project coordinator at the Children’s Hospital of Chicago’s Research Center and as a research assistant for NORC at the University of Chicago.

Dr. Patton received his B.A. with honors in anthropology and political science from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, his MSW as an Olivia P. Maynard Fellow at the University of Michigan, and his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration.

New Full-time Lecturers

Dr. Mashura Akilova came to the United States from Tajikistan, where she was a program officer for Save the Children. Dr. Akilova has taught Social Welfare Policy for five years in the School’s MSW program, including through its new Online Campus. Dr. Akilova’s research is on child labor, microenterprise, and occupational changes of legal U.S. immmigrants and their asset holdings in Tajikistan and Central Asia. She earned her Ph.D. in social policy from CSSW in 2015. Her dissertation was on “Microfinance, Child Labor and Education.” Her MSW is from Washington University.


Dr. Elisabeth (Beth) Counselman Carpenter is a licensed psychotherapist. In addition to her private practice, she has worked as a clinician on an inpatient psychiatric hospital unit and in a family service agency.

Dr. Counselman Carpenter has taught courses on clinical assessment and diagnosis as well as substance abuse assessment and treatment at CSSW.

She has an undergraduate degree in Sociology from the University of Richmond, a Masters in Clinical Social Work from New York University, and a Ph.D in social work from Adelphi University. Her recently published Ph.D. dissertation focuses on the lived experience of mothers whose children were born with Down Syndrome.


Dr. Sónia Pereira is a visiting assistant professor at Barnard College and has also been a lecturer at Yale University. She has taught courses on happiness and economics, ethics and economics, inequality and poverty, social exclusion, environmental economics and biodiversity, among others. She enjoys engaging her students in discussions of the social policy implications of economic models. At CSSW, she will be teaching Social Welfare Policy, Microeconomics and Economics for International Affairs.

Dr. Pereira’s Ph.D. and M.Sc. are in economics from University College London, University of London, and she has an undergraduate degree in economics from the Universidade Nova de Lisboa.


Dr. Amy Werman is a program evaluation consultant for social service agencies in New York and Israel. In addition, she maintains a private clinical practice, working with with adolescents, adults and couples with mood and anxiety issues, life cycle challenges and relationship problems.

For over a decade, Dr. Werman has been teaching courses on research methodology, program evaluation, and clinical case evaluation. She recently received a grant from Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning (CCNMTL) to develop an experiential learning model for her course on program evaluation (T6416) using digital media tools.

Dr. Werman has conducted research in the areas of bipolar disorder and the effectiveness of wilderness therapy.

Visiting Professor

Dr. Dexter Voisin, who received his Ph.D. from CSSW in 1999, is a tenured professor at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration. The author of nearly 80 peer-reviewed articles along with book chapters, he focuses on community and family violence exposure, HIV-related risk behaviors, international HIV prevention and intervention, social work practice, and adolescent risk and protective factors with particular attention to African American youth living in violent communities and to HIV-positive gay adolescents. He is a faculty associate at the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture at the University of Chicago.

Dr. Voisin serves as a board member of the Illinois Statewide Committee for Juvenile Justice Programs, Disproportionate Minority Contact Subcommittee; as an executive committee member for the Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation and Inquiry on Sexual and Reproductive Health at the University of Chicago; as a national advisory board member for the Black Youth Project, one of the first national studies to measure the attitudes, actions, hopes, and beliefs of African American youth in a comprehensive way; and as a co-editor of the Journal of HIV/AIDS and Social Services.

A licensed clinical social worker, Dr. Voisin has maintained a private practice since 2002. Previously, he was a clinical social worker at the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services and a clinical therapist for Charter Behavioral Health Care Systems in Atlanta, Georgia.

– See more at: //socialwork.columbia.edu/news-events/cssw-welcomes-7-new-full-time-faculty-members-and-visiting-scholar#sthash.BDyEP5Gj.dpuf

Leave a Reply